The whelk traps we set out last week have been catching. Italians are the largest western consumers of the whelk, which they call scungilli, so the baymen out here call the whelks scungies. Actually, Asians prized the meats and most of the commercially harvested whelks are shipped to the Orient. Since the baymen no longer trap lobsters here in the Peconic, they’ve turned to scungies full time.
For years, I’ve waved at them while they set their traps outside my oyster plot. Permits for whelk are limited and not being given out anymore. Fortunately, I let one of the senior baymen out here dock at my place all winter and he told me that he has permits and never uses them. I bought a half dozen traps, from another old bayman whose house and workshop are wedged between a score of modern summer MacMansions.
Now that I’m catching and can sublease a permit, I need to find the market price. Last week, Isabel brought in 20 to a good friend who just opened The Bowery Diner. Although he likes them, he doesn’t think that many clients will. Tomorrow i’ll take another box of scungies to another client, The Minetta Tavern.
Personally, I relish them and would eat them all if there’s no repeat demand in New York. But I doubt if I’ll be that lucky. Scungies have a firm, almost tough, meat. Not only that, but, conchs, their southern cousins, are called Bahamian viagra. And for good reason, it turns out. When a scungie cannot slither its tongue inside an oyster, it will slime the oyster. That slime has the same chemical in it as viagra.
This could be a big crop. Ordered another dozen traps.